No Evidence Food or Food Packaging Can Transmit COVID-19

U.S. agencies reiterate safety of food supply, finding chances of related infection extremely low.

February 19, 2021

WASHINGTON—After more than a year since the COVID-19 outbreak was declared a global health emergency, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continue to underscore that there is no credible evidence of food or food packaging being associated with or a likely source of viral transmission of COVID-19.

“Our confidence in the safety of the U.S. food supply remains steadfast,” said Acting USDA Secretary Kevin Shea and Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock, M.D., in a joint statement. “Consumers should be reassured that we continue to believe, based on our understanding of currently available reliable scientific information, and supported by overwhelming international scientific consensus, that the foods they eat and food packaging they touch are highly unlikely to spread SARS-CoV-2.”

COVID-19 is a respiratory illness which spreads from person to person, unlike foodborne or gastrointestinal viruses, such as norovirus and hepatitis A that often make people ill through contaminated food.

While there are relatively few reports of the virus being detected on food and packaging, most studies focus primarily on the detection of the virus’ genetic fingerprint rather than evidence of the transmission of the virus resulting in human infection.

Given that the number of virus particles that could be theoretically picked up by touching a surface would be very small and the amount needed for infection via oral inhalation would be very high, the chances of infection by touching the surface of food packaging or eating food is considered to be extremely low.

“In addition, considering the more than 100 million cases of COVID-19, we have not seen epidemiological evidence of food or food packaging as the source of SARS-CoV-2 transmission to humans,” Shea and Woodcock said.

“Furthermore, transmission has not been attributed to food products or packaging through national and international surveillance systems. Food business operations continue to produce a steady supply of safe food following current good manufacturing practices and preventive controls, focusing on good hygiene practices and keeping workers safe.”

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Coronavirus Resources

NACS has compiled resources to help the convenience retail community navigate the COVID-19 crisis, including information about how to educate employees about the vaccines and other vaccine-related human resources advice. For news updates and guidance, visit our coronavirus resources page.